To honor the coronation of Emperor Haile Sellassie I and Empress Menen of November 2, 1930, the following excerpt from the book “The Biography of Empress Menen, The Mother of the Ethiopian Nation” is offered here.
The preparations for the coronation ceremony of Emperor Haile Sellassie I and Empress Menen Asfaw were quite elaborate. According to the National Geographic Magazine of June 1931, several streets in the capital were asphalted for the occasion, electric lights were installed, and eucalyptus fences were constructed to hide round “tukul” huts. Arches were erected along the route that the Emperor and Empress were to take, and flags and bunting were strung up for the celebration.
The police and Imperial Bodyguard were transformed with new khaki uniforms. A triangular coronation monument was erected to commemorate Emperor Haile Sellassie I, whose name translated means Power of the Trinity. The upcoming grand coronation would have provided an opportunity for many relatives of both Menen and Tafari to journey to Addis Ababa. This would have been a busy time for the imminent Empress, as she ensured that her visitors were comfortably accommodated. There were several photographs of the immediate and extended family taken at this time by Armenian court photographers, Haigaz and Tony Boyadjians.
To provide seating for 700 guests, a large auditorium was constructed on the western side of St. George’s Church. Inside, two thrones were placed one third of the way into the hall and some distance apart. His Majesty’s throne was decorated in red and gold, while Her Majesty’s was decorated in blue and gold. For seven days and nights prior to the coronation ceremony, forty-nine bishops and priests in groups of seven chanted the nine Psalms of David at seven stations around St. George‘s Church.
On Tikimt 22, 1923 (November 1, 1930), the day before his coronation, Ras Tafari, in a lengthy speech, paid tribute to the deceased Emperor Menelik II. In the circle in front of St. George’s Church, the visiting Duke of Gloucester of Britain unveiled a gilded statue of Emperor Menelik II riding a horse. On that same day, at midnight, the future Emperor, Empress, family members and nobles attended a church service at St. George‘s for devotional prayer. On the following morning, Tikimt 23, 1923 (November 2, 1930), at 7:00 AM the foreign guests arrived, many accompanied by Ethiopian nobility, and were seated in the church.
Coronation of Emperor Haile Sellassie I
At 7:30 AM on Tikimt 23, 1923 (November 2, 1930), Their Majesties, dressed in white silken communion robes, emerged from the church behind the incense bearers. Once the Emperor was seated on his throne in the temporary auditorium, the silence was broken by His Holiness Abuna Kyrilos, who proclaimed, “Ye princes and ministers, ye nobles and chiefs of the army, ye soldiers and people of Ethiopia, and ye doctors and chiefs of the clergy, ye professors and priests, look ye upon our Emperor Haile Sellassie the First, descended from the dynasty of Menelik the First, who was born of Solomon and of the Queen of Sheba, a dynasty perpetuated without interruption from that time to King Sehale Sellassie and to our times.”
The Emperor then gave his sacred vow to uphold the Orthodox religion, to uphold and administer the laws of the land for the betterment of the Ethiopian people, to maintain the integrity of Ethiopia, and to found schools for developing the spiritual and material welfare of his subjects. In a ceremony lasting five hours, Emperor Haile Sellassie I was covered in gold-embroidered scarlet vestments, and was then presented with a gold sword studded with precious stones and an imperial scepter made of gold and ivory. In addition, a golden globe of the world, a diamond-encrusted ring, and two traditional lances filigreed in gold were bestowed upon His Majesty. With each of these presentations, an anointment of sacred oil was made to the imperial head, brow, and shoulders. The magnificent crown, made of gold and encrusted with diamonds and emeralds, was then placed upon his head and Abuna Kyrilos proclaimed, “That God may make this crown a crown of sanctity and glory. That by the grace and the blessing, which we have given you, may you have an unshaken faith and a pure heart, in order that you may inherit the crown eternal. So be it.”
The new Emperor’s fourteen-year-old son Asfa Wossen then bowed down before his father, pledging his support, as he became the Crown Prince. The Emperor’s second son, six-year-old Prince Mekonnen then paid his respects to his father. The national anthem was played while 101 cannons roared and thousands of loyal subjects surrounding the church cheered in admiration.
Coronation of Empress Menen
After the ceremony for the Emperor, the Empress entered with her attendants to take her throne. Perhaps her attendants were her daughters, seventeen-year-oldTenagne Work and thirteen-year-old Zenebework. The following reading from thePsalms of David (Psalms 45:9-11) was made as a prayer.“Kings’ daughters were among thy honorable women: upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir. Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house; so shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him.”
The Empress was presented with a ring encrusted with diamonds, and then the red and gold coronation robes were placed upon her. The new Emperor received the Empress’s crown from the Archbishop and spoke the following words about his Empress, “As I, with the will of God, have received this crown from your Holiness, I request the Empress to receive this crown and partake in the honor with me. Therefore, I request your Holiness to put the crown on Empress Menen.”
Abuna Kyrilos took the crown from the Emperor and placed it on the Empress’s head as he made a prayer that the crown be one of knowledge and wisdom, sympathy and goodness. In accordance with this prayer, Empress Menen used her crown to serve the people and to help the poor. After receiving her crown, the Empress went to bow before the Emperor and returned to sit on her throne. Again the anthem was played, the cannons roared and the multitude of women outside the church ululated in appreciation for Empress Menen.
The newly crowned Emperor and Empress then took a grand tour around the inside of St. George’s Church, escorted by bishops and priests, their children, high dignitaries, assistants and others all carrying palm branches and chanting, “Blessed be the King of Israel.” After this, Their Majesties removed their crowns and royal vestments to attend mass inside St. George’s Church in their traditional white silken clothing. Later they donned their regal robes and crowns once more in order to present themselves to the waiting multitude outside before entering a coach drawn by six bay horses, which conveyed them to the Imperial Palace for a state dinner.
On that day, silver medallions bearing the likeness of the new Emperor and Empress were presented to their honorary guests. In attendance were the Duke of Gloucester as envoy of the King of England, the Prince of Udine representing Italy, Marshal Franchet d’Esperey of France, and emissaries from Belgium, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Turkey and the United States. European nobles and ministers present on the occasion expressed their appreciation for the loveliness of Empress Menen. It is interesting to note that the thirty-nine-year-old Empress was more than five months pregnant with her last son when the lengthy coronation events took place.